Once – book by Enda Walsh, Music & Lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. On tour starting Liverpool Everyman 20 January 2020. 4****. William Russell.

Book by Enda Walsh. Music & Lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova.
Ashcroft Playhouse, Fairfield Halls, Croydon CR9 1DG to 11 January 2020 & then on tour.
Tour dates: 20 January – Liverpool Empire; 3 February – Grand Opera House, York; 10 February – New Victoria, Woking; 17 February – Milton Keynes Theatre; 17 March – Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent; 14 April – New Theatre, Oxford; 11 May – Donald Gordon Theatre, Cardiff; 26 May – Playhouse, Edinburgh; 1 June – New Alexandria Theatre, Birmingham; 13 July – King’s Theatre, Glasgow
The engagements are for a week.
Evenings – 7.30pm Mat 2.30pm. Check with venues.
Runs – 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
Tickets – check with venues.
Review: William Russell 11 January.

This is the first major tour by Once, which has enjoyed successful runs on Broadway and in the West End. It is not the West End company and the production directed by Peter Rowe originated at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. The West End and Broadway productions were directed by John Tiffany and what you see is the concept of the original staging – we are in an Irish pub, musicians are performing, all the actors play something, and from the splendid hooley which the audience is gradually sucked in to being part of the characters emerge. The Guy (Daniel Healy giving a charismatic performance) is a busker singing his own songs but lacking in confidence whose girlfriend has gone to New York. The Girl (Emma Lucia, equally good) is a Czech musician living in Dublin with her mother and other Czech companions who offers to play piano for him, persuades him his songs are good, and helps him get demo discs recorded. What follows is a sweet and touching love affair which is never going to end happily ever after, but which is conducted against a background of songs which are not quite Irish traditional folk but somehow capture the essence while being firmly of today. It makes for a beguiling evening and this tour, which after its British stint goes overseas, is strongly cast and performed. It is a heart warming way to pass an evening. He has not fallen out of love with the girl in America even if he is falling in love with the Girl, she has a child and a missing husband, also has not fallen out of love with her past and is far too sensible to fall into a new love. Both know, to cite the hit of the score, they are Falling Slowly. But maybe not ending up where one expects.
There are quirky performances galore from Dan Bottomley as Billy, who owns the record shop vital to the recordings being made; Samuel Martin as the banker who comes up with the necessary loan. There are also some nice touches = a Ronan Keaton joke and when the Czechs speak they speak in English but we get Czech surtitles. But this is essentially an ensemble show and this is a first rate ensemble. You know you are in safe hands because while the audience is taking its seats the cast drift in one by one and start to sing generating the necessary pub party feeling for what is to follow. That it worked in the Ashcroft in Croydon, one of those sterile municipal concert hall style theatres designed by architects who appear to know nothing about what is required says it all about the cast and production. This is a show to see not once but twice or even thrice, and judging by the Saturday night one I was part of a lot of them had.
Guy: Daniel Healy.
Girl: Emma Lucia.
Billy: Dan Bottomley.
Eamon: Matthew Burns.
Reza: Ellen Chivers.
Ex-Girlfriend: Rosalind Ford.
Svec: Lloyd Gorman.
Emcee: David Heywood.
Bank Manager: Samuel Martin.
Da: Peter Peverley.
Baruska: Susannah van den Berg.
Andrey: James William-Pattison.
Onstage swings: Emma Fraser; Sean Keany; Hanna Khogali; Conor McFarlane.
Ivonka – Sienna de Canha Grlevic/Rina Dula-Reeve/Amelie Flanagan/Isabella Manning.

Director: Peter Rowe.
Set & Costumes: Libby Watson.
Musical Supervisor: Ben Goddard.
Choreographer: Franceska Jaynes.
Lighting Designer: Mark Dymock.
Sound Designer: James Cook.
Projection Designer: Peter Hazelwood.
Dialect Coach: Roisin Carty.
Production Photograph: Mark Senior.

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